Fleets are struggling to hire the truck drivers they need despite economic slowdowns associated with Covid-19, and not just in Canada.
The IRU — an international supply chain group that counts members such as the Canadian Trucking Alliance and American Trucking Associations – is reporting driver shortages around the world.
Some countries are struggling with even bigger shortages than those experienced in Canada.
A recent survey of almost 800 road transportation companies from 23 countries found the truck driver shortage was most severe in Eurasia last year, when 20% of truck driving jobs went unfilled. In contrast, a mere 4% of truck driving jobs went unfilled in China.
Aging workforce, limited parking
The organization also cited recruiting challenges such as an aging workforce, a lack of safe and secure truck parking, and struggles to attract youth and women alike.
“It’s not surprising to hear,” says Angela Splinter, CEO of Trucking HR Canada. “For the most part, we have those similar challenges.”
Trucking HR Canada data identified 20,000 unfilled truck driving jobs in 2020, and it projects 23,000 vacancies by 2023. Based on about 300,000 truck driving jobs last year, that puts the Canadian vacancy rate at more than 6%.
“Maybe we can start looking at more best practices on an international scale,” Splinter says, referring to the ongoing search for solutions.
“The solutions are there.”
Umberto de Pretto, IRU secretary general
“[The] driver shortage threatens the functioning of road transport, supply chains, trade, the economy, and ultimately employment and citizens’ welfare. This is not an issue that can wait. Action needs to be taken now,” says IRU Secretary General Umberto de Pretto.
“The solutions are there, but if governments do not act now to ease access to [the] profession, improve working conditions and upskill the workforce, [the] driver shortage will continue to disrupt and eventually irreparably damage vital mobility networks and supply chains.”
Europe’s truck driver shortage eased somewhat in the face of pandemic-dampened demand, with the IRU reporting that openings plunged from 24% in 2019 to 7% in 2020.
This year, surveyed European companies are forecasting a 17% shortfall, compared to 18% in Mexico, 20% in Turkey, 24% in Russia, and almost 33% in Uzbekistan.
Shortage of women drivers
Thirty-eight percent of those who participated in the survey said a lack of trained drivers was the main cause of the shortage. But challenging work conditions made worse by the pandemic, and trouble attracting women and young people to the job, were also identified as barriers.
A mere 2% of the world’s truck drivers are women, the IRU reports.
About 3.5% of Canada’s truck drivers are women, Trucking HR Canada previously reported. South of the border, the U.S. Department of Labor says that 7.8% of truck drivers are women.
As for youth, the share of truck drivers under 25 reached as low as 5% in Europe and Russia, 6% in Mexico, and 7% in Turkey.
That situation is more acute in Canada. A mere 3.4% of truck drivers here are under the age of 25, while 31% are 55 or older, Trucking HR Canada says.
Aging truck drivers
The average age of the world’s truck drivers has now reached 50, and continues to grow older each year, the IRU survey finds. And it adds the “demographic time bomb will only get worse without action to reduce minimum driver age.”
“The minimum age for professional drivers is 21 or higher in many places, creating a large gap between leaving school and taking the wheel. Governments should set the minimum age for trained drivers at 18, with training starting from 17, in order to unlock the full potential of the profession as a global job engine,” it says.
The IRU is promoting strategies such as lowering the minimum driving age to 18, and investing in safe and secure truck parking areas to fix the current massive global shortfall. It also adds that working conditions will improve when drivers are treated with more respect.
Quebec recently announced that it is continuing a program that allows 18-year-old truck driver trainees with the support of a related internship.
Legislation re-introduced in the U.S. would allow truck drivers under the age of 21 to cross state lines. Forty-nine states already allow drivers to obtain a CDL.
The IRU surveyed 77 companies from 23 countries between October 2020 and January 2021.